The Social Life Demons I Need To Slay

There is nothing more hypocritical than writing a post on why you’re stepping back from being on social media that will be blasted all over social media. It’s the equivalent of a rapper telling those who hate him he doesn’t care about them repeatedly. So yes, I’m starting on a fatally flawed premise right off the bat.

And isn’t that fitting for what this piece is about? Because that hiatus is really background to the real subject which is the things I’m seeing in myself I need to change. Taking that hiatus is a first step. If I can take a moment to remove all the noise then I might be able to reflect as I need to. The next step is using this site so that I might study some of the behaviors which need changing.

What brought this on was a sudden moment of reflection I had recently. I was talking with my father and I heard myself expressing extremist ideologies which sounded alien even to me. Now there’s no denying I’ve tilted that way of late and the basic points I was making are ones I do believe in, namely that I am horrified by the rise of hate speech in the US. But how it was coming out? Not me.

I realized with horror that I’m not sounding like myself of late and that’s a scary thing. Thus I realized, as I often must, that I needed to silence all voices I was hearing save for my own and a few trusted peers, just as a test. Within 24 hours, my head was remarkably clearer and I started to see what I needed to see.

I’ve realized I’m addicted to Twitter. Like I’m recognizably addicted to it. I go through withdrawal. I check it incessantly. I fixate on my likes. I get excited when something I say gets retweeted a lot. If a conversation goes bad, I can get insomnia. Sure,  nothing but the last part is abnormal but the degree to which I feel these things is getting to be too much.

But Twitter is itself of course a medium for social interaction by its very definition. Any issue I have there has a “real life” counterpart which can be taken down just as easily. These are the demons at the root of everything.

None is more prevalent than my need to be liked. All of those likes? They’re a perfect symbol of what I’m craving. This makes sense as I have fatally low self esteem. I struggle to produce from within so I seek from without. This is pretty logical. And after all, I’m trying to rebuild a self esteem that was destroyed by others after a childhood where I was rejected rather firmly by the outside world.

The problem is that my need to be liked often dictates my actions and my thoughts. I change my opinions to fit in. I try to post things that will get me attention. Believe me, several of my blog posts were written with that purpose, though the ones that tried actually failed to do so. I talk about things that will get me the “right” attention. I’ll even hedge an opinion or two when it doesn’t go over with the crowd.

Trying to stretch myself hurts with time. While there are issues that I truly am profoundly passionate about–I will shatter my fist trying to beat down a door in the name of equality–there are times I can’t fit in. I wasn’t offended by Doctor Strange for example. I recognized it was a fumbled effort by Marvel but it didn’t bug me. Yet I felt compelled because so many were offended to be offended by it and I wasn’t. I thus felt amoral when I wasn’t joining in on the outrage as so many I respect were. (I didn’t finish Luke Cage while I’m confessing my Marvel sins. It was ok but didn’t grab me.) You can use this story as an example for a good many issues.

I’m trying to be the me I think I should be to others. When I do go off on the weird tangents that are fundamentally me, with rare exceptions it does leave me feeling isolated. I’m reminded even in my groups that I don’t fit in. Going back to the times I tried to get responses and failed, those really hurt because I thought I was going to stoke the interest of others. I’m frustrated.

This leads to the inevitable pain I face. I do sometimes have an outright falling out with people. In fact, I’m a few months out from what looks like a permanent severance of a tie I’d had for years. This was one of my best friends from way back but we finally grew apart and I decided I didn’t want to deal with him any more. The pain hurts still and may even increase with time.

And all of this spirals to a simple, brutal fact: I’m lonely. Yes, I’m a married man with a daughter but I’m still very lonely. Friendship fills a niche relationships don’t and vice versa. I don’t have any in person friends I see regularly anymore as all have either moved or I’ve had a falling out or both. As a result, I’ve turned online for that fix. And that’s not proving all that healthy anymore. I desperately need a functioning social life not linked to a screen.

So with all this said, what do I need to do? It really may all come down to this: I need to be honest about who I am with people. Am I a firebrand? Not on most issues so playing one needs to stop. After all, it dilutes my voice on the things I care about. I need to accept that my opinions may alienate others and that’s ok because better they like me than someone who isn’t there. I need to hope that others will accept me. I also absolutely must find group activities in person here.

And ultimately I need to accept that I’ve probably screamed this into a void. But that’s fine. I wrote this for me. That’s enough.

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